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Canada Morning Update: Canada looks to break NAFTA roadblock; prominent Calgary video gamer target of swatting

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland listens during a press conference at the conclusion of the fourth round of negotiations for a new North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) at the General Services Administration headquarters in Washington, DC, in October.

Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images

Good morning,

These are the top stories:

Canada is crafting a pitch to break through the NAFTA auto roadblock

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Ottawa is looking to pitch a proposal that would increase the amount of North American-made content in cars and trucks that are built in Canada, Mexico and the United States (for subscribers). Discussions on auto rules have so far been one of the most heated aspects of North American free-trade agreement talks. But even as the Trudeau government looks to find compromises, it is going after the U.S. in the world's trade court with a major complaint related to the softwood lumber dispute. Canada's Trade Minister says the move is meant as a show of strength: "When people see that you're firm, you get respect," François-Philippe Champagne said. The next round of NAFTA talks are set to get underway in Montreal later this month.

Here's Campbell Clark's take on the state of trade: "This is the week that concerns over Donald Trump's trade agenda morphed into NAFTA-danger syndrome, when people started to notice the risk and big-money bets were won and lost in the market." (for subscribers)

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The Calgary woman targeted in a swatting incident has prolific online presence

Lisa Vannatta, a video gamer and fitness vlogger, had been livestreaming to her followers when she learned that Calgary police had contained the scene around her home and evacuated nearby units. Police had received a call from a man who said he shot his father and was holding others hostage, before giving Vannatta's address. (Vannatta has nearly 600,000 followers on a livestreaming platform as well as Instagram.) When Vannatta found out that she may have been the victim of a swatting call she called police, who then determined it was a hoax. Now, 25-year-old Los Angeles resident Tyler Raj Barriss has been charged over the case of swatting, which is when a person phones authorities to report a made-up emergency. A man with the same name has also been charged with a similar incident in Kansas.

Donald Trump used profanity to disparage Africans and Haitians

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According to officials, the U.S. President asked why his country would accept more immigrants from "shithole countries" instead of places such as Norway. He was meeting with lawmakers to discuss a bipartisan proposal aimed at protecting "Dreamers" – the hundreds of thousands of people who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children. But Trump rejected the plan, which included measures to strengthen border security. The clock is ticking on an immigration deal as the possibility of a government shutdown looms.

The missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls inquiry lost another executive director

Debbie Reid has left the commission just months after replacing Michèle Moreau as executive director. The inquiry has been plagued by a number of departures since it launched in September of 2016. In December, First Nations chiefs called for the resignation of inquiry head Marion Buller amid complaints about delays; as well, families of murdered women have accused the commissioners of being disrespectful during the testimony process. The inquiry is due to wrap up by the end of this year, although there is talk of extending the deadline. Federal Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett says she's concerned that the continued departures will "distract from the work at hand," but added that Ottawa won't intervene with the independent commission's work.


A record $100-million donation was made to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health

The money will go toward everything from basic scientific research on the causes of mental illness to the search for new treatments and the development of new models of care. The donor has decided to remain anonymous, but said in a statement that the gift will help support "high-risk, high-reward research." Currently, about 15 per cent of charitable donations go to health-related charities, and only a fraction toward mental health. But in recent years the stigma around mental illness has slowly declined as public discussion around the issue becomes more commonplace.

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Here's André Picard's take: "A gift of this magnitude is impressive in itself. We tend to forget the important role philanthropy plays in funding health research and, increasingly, health services. But it is doubly noteworthy because it dramatically underscores a significant cultural shift, where it is as legitimate – and socially acceptable – for a philanthropist to embrace mental health as a cause as it is cancer or heart disease."


Stocks, euro on the rise

Global stocks scaled fresh peaks on Friday while the euro hit a three-year high and Bund yields rose as progress on forming a German government gave fresh impetus to a bond market sell-off triggered by signs the ECB may accelerate an end to its stimulus. Tokyo's Nikkei lost 0.2 per cent, but Hong Kong's Hang Seng gained 0.9 per cent, and the Shanghai composite 0.1 per cent. In Europe, London's FTSE 100, Germany's DAX and the Paris CAC 40 were each up in the area of 0.2 per cent by about 5:35 a.m. ET. New York futures were also up, and the Canadian dollar was just shy of the 80-cent (U.S.) mark. Oil prices eased from three-year highs, but were still on track to end the week higher for a fourth week in a row.

FYI: The Globe now provides all users access to real-time stock quotes for both Canadian and U.S. markets. Go here to find out about the major changes to our Globe Investor site.


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UBC alumni involved in Steven Galloway case offer advice to creative writing students at Concordia

"As Concordia University is rocked by allegations of sexual assault and harassment within its creative writing program, a wave of support has crossed the country via social media, from west to east. Noting parallels between the accusations at Concordia and the Steven Galloway case at the University of British Columbia's creative writing program, complainants and others involved in the UBC case have been reaching out to Concordia students and alumni. In both cases, there are allegations of sexual impropriety, power imbalance and an unhealthy environment. For years, the stories from Concordia have been whispered – and in fact written about. Even if previous articles didn't explicitly mention Concordia, it wasn't difficult to figure it out; people in the know knew." – Marsha Lederman

RBC's decision to hike mortgage rates is a big deal

"Canada's mortgage-rate trendsetter, Royal Bank of Canada, hiked its posted five-year fixed mortgage rate Thursday. In days gone by, I never would have written about this. Posted rate changes were no big deal. Today, they are. Government regulations now force most Canadians to prove they can afford much higher rates before getting approved for a mortgage. This "stress testing," as it's called, makes RBC's seemingly insignificant rate change quite consequential indeed." – Robert McLister, mortgage planner


Movies tend to debut on Fridays. So we're trying out a new weekly section to highlight the latest in film news. Let us know what you think, and if there are any other topics or issues you'd like to see covered in Morning Update.

Action thriller The Commuter, starring Liam Neeson, opens nationwide today. We asked Brad Ross of the Toronto Transit Commission to offer advice on what to do should a distressed Neeson board your train:

- If you somehow manage to climb under the train's carriage from inside the car itself, then wow. Double wow if you're 60, as Neeson's character reminds us of on several occasions.

- If you live through that stunt, then do not attempt to roll out from between the tracks as the train passes over you. You will not survive.

- Congratulations, you have survived. Do not attempt, then, to jump back onto the moving train. Take a cab. Grab an Uber. Rent a bike. Thanks for riding.


Earthquake in Haiti leaves 220,000 dead

Jan. 12, 2010: The earthquake hit first; the humanitarian aftershocks followed and continue to this day. At 4:53 p.m., only 25 kilometres from the capital of Port-au-Prince, the Earth shifted in Haiti and calamity visited a long-suffering land. The scope of devastation can be measured in numbers, though they only hint at the ruinous toll: an estimated 220,000 dead; more than 300,000 injured; and 1.5-million left homeless. The 7.0-magnitude tremor laid waste to entire neighbourhoods and destroyed the National Palace, a grand symbol of power through Haiti's long history of political turmoil. The tragedy reached deep into Montreal's large expatriate Haitian community, touching off desperate scrambles to locate loved ones. In the aftermath of the disaster, many Haitians fled their country in search of a place of refuge. The displaced are still on the move, arriving in waves to seek asylum in Canada last year after facing uncertainty over their future in the United States. A fault line opened in one of the world's poorest countries that January day eight years ago. Its reverberations are being felt still. – Ingrid Peritz

Morning Update is written by Arik Ligeti.

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